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April 11, 2014

Appy Stories: How Dark Lands was born and built

The Windows Phone Store has hundreds of thousands of apps created by countless developers, worldwide. We all have our favourites, but have you ever wondered how your must-have app or game was created?

This is something we’ve been curious about here, at Nokia Conversations, and so we’ve decided to find out in a brand new series called Appy Stories. A couple of times a month, we’ll be interviewing the developers of your favorite apps and games to find out what inspired them, learning about the highs and the lows of app development and what they love about Windows Phone. First up, we’re talking to Vlad Spevak, CEO & Co-founder of Mingle Games, about one of Windows Phones most iconic recent hits (and a personal favourite of mine), the AppCampus supported games Dark Lands.

How would you describe Dark Lands in two sentences or less to someone who has never heard of it?

Dark Lands is an addictive mix of an auto runner game combined with a dynamic combat system, all taking place in a fantasy horror world. You take your hero on an epic journey to defeat evil forces who’ve corrupted the land.

How was Dark Lands born? What was the inspiration?


We’re fantasy fans and also like dark and horror genres and wanted to make something that looked unique and felt artistic. During that time, I was playing Limbo and was fascinated by the way you could create such an incredibly atmospheric games simply by using silhouettes.

This inspired me to try and create a different type of silhouette game. We love Frank Miller’s art and were hugely influenced by his comic series, Sin City and 300.  My partner Pavel and I started to design art style and felt like this was the way to go. Pavel did a great job bringing the ideas to life and adding important little details. Finally, we achieved at look, which was both minimalistic yet noir.

As for the game play, I’m a big fan of the complex movement featured in old games such as Another World and the very first Prince of Persia. I also love to play runners and played with idea to twist the gameplay so that it would include a fight mode. Games such as Punch Quest have a nice fighting model, but I wanted to make Dark Land a little more tactical, while still using full scale of movement.

So, we were inspired by lots of things, games, books, movies and art.

How long did it take to make and what were the high and lows of the process?


It took about 6 months to create the first release with basic core gameplay. I’d say hardest part was to make gameplay. We’d been struggling with the control system and tried multiple approaches, including virtual buttons, to pure gesture control with different fighting styles. Nothing worked well enough until we created the current system, which we’re very happy with and plan to improve in the future.

Finding a unique art style was also hard, but once we did, it was easy to develop it further. It was great to have AppCampus help during the development. Their funding gave us extra time and meant we could create a far better game.

What do you like best about developing for Windows Phone and what does your future hold?

I personally like Visual Studio as I’ve been developing in it my whole life and I felt very at home working with it. I’m also a fan of Nokia devices as working on them is good and process is mainly pretty straightforward. There are still some issues, such as the 30 FPS of devices and lack of support for social platforms, but I see improvements in these areas as well, so I am very optimistic for future.

appystories Darklands

What top tips have you got for developers wanting to make their mark?

Personally, I don’t believe in copycats and when you look at the gaming stores you can see there are hundreds of games coming out daily. So to stand out, you need something special, new or if not new, something made better then the rest. Before I start creating a game I always ask myself “Would I care about this game? Would I download it instead of others? And if so, why? ” If you have positive answers to these types of questions, then you are off to a good start.

A fascinating insight into the magic world of game and app development, I’m sure you’ll agree. If you haven’t already checked out Dark Lands be sure to give it a try. We promise you won’t regret it. And if you’re already hooked and have any questions you want to ask Vlad, drop in then comments below. In the meantime, we’re off to kick some orc ass.